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May 30, 201210:09 AMThe Telegraph

The Premier Blog of the West

From The Tour Bus: A Chat With Country Star Chris Young

May 30, 2012 - 10:09 AM
From The Tour Bus: A Chat With Country Star Chris Young

Photo by James Minchin

Chris Young is not chiseled to perfection, he’s not too cool to act goofy, and he’s certainly not the kind of guy who gets crazy and trashes his tour bus on the nightly. But the 26-year-old Tennessean and former Nashville Star victor is one of the only artists in his genre to achieve five consecutive No. 1 singles. His flawless baritone evokes the legendary male crooners of country, from Don Williams to Conway Twitty. And, judging from our brief chat before a recent show, he’s a well-mannered, approachable dude who keeps a shockingly spotless bus.

I was there; I smelled the scented candle.

We met up for a few minutes during the Dallas stop for Miranda Lambert’s wildly successful On Fire tour, on which Young’s been the primary opening act. While getting ready for a meet-and-greet, he sipped on hot tea and talked to me about a variety of subjects. He chatted about his current single (the endlessly catchy bar tune “Neon”), his workout routine, his favorite travel destinations, and the challenge of having to cram all his hits into a 45-minute set.

C&I: Nice to meet you; how’s the day been so far?

Young: Got a pretty good day in. There are a couple guys out here who box [as in the sport]. … So we were backstage boxing each other all day long, then we ran up the hill. Got a good workout in, and then there was good food.

C&I: So this is pretty much the routine on the tour – working out and hanging out during the day?

Young: Miranda and I actually share a trainer, so we have a trainer on the road. But he’s out right now because it’s his anniversary. We told him that’s probably something he shouldn’t miss. [Laughs.]

C&I: Tell me about these training sessions. What time of day are they?

Young: Man, honestly? Noon. [Laughs.] I’m not getting up to go work out any earlier than that. When I was in the best shape of my life … well … first of all, I wasn’t on the road. I can tell you that. I would go run at night. I’m more an afternoon-evening person. One of the cool things we’ve been able to do on the tour is share the trainer. Miranda’s the same way – she’s, like, a three-, four-o’clock girl. We do a lot of on site stuff. If the weather’s nice, we’ll go for a run. If not, we’ll try to find a gym.

C&I: You’re no stranger to the D-FW area, having been a regular performer at Cowboys in Arlington before ‘Nashville Star.’ What’s it like for you to come back?

Young: I feel like I’m home. I lived in Arlington for about a year and felt like I got adopted. … I’ve got a lot of friends out here that are coming to the show. … I think [living in Texas] opened my eyes to the different styles of country. You think about what you hear on the radio in a lot of other places, and that’s it. But, man, it’s funny because when I moved here and was playing full-time, I would call my old friends and say, “Have you heard this song that’s been on the radio every five minutes? “Kiss Me In The Dark,” by Randy Rogers Band? And they’d be like, “What?” It was funny that songs could be so regional. I really like a lot of the stuff that didn’t get played in Nashville. I went and bought a lot of records. To me, when I hear a great song, I’m like, “Crap, why haven’t I done a song like that?” It just makes me want to go home and write.

C&I: Speaking of … what kinds of artists and songs are appealing to you as a listener these days?

Young: I would get my a-- kicked if I didn’t say Miranda’s record. But I’m a huge fan of hers, and that’s why I was so excited to be on this tour. The way she writes and conveys what she wants to say …. And even the songs she didn’t write, but picks, are so very unique.

C&I: Do folks write songs with you in mind?

Young: I find songs on accident that I love more than the ones that are sent. There’s a song, “When She’s On,” that’s on the record. How I found that song? I was literally walking by a studio and saw a buddy of mine in there, cutting the song. And he asked if I was still cuttin’. He played it for me, I loved it, and that’s how we got it.  … To me, if I’m going to cut something I’m not a writer on, I want it to be something that hits me in the gut and I want it to be something I’m amazed I’ve never thought of. Like “Neon.” … When I heard it, I was like, 'Oh, my god, that is so brilliantly simple.'"

C&I: How do you decide what goes into a shorter opening set, especially when you have three albums full of choices?

Young: Most of the time, on a set this short, you have to do singles. We’ve got five No. 1’s, which is ridiculous. I still think about how weird that is. And then, I open my show with “Save Water, Drink Beer,” which is a party song.

C&I: Do you ever get a yearning to play a longer set, and more tunes?

Young: It’s feast or famine, especially when you have a tour. Until the end of June, we’re with Miranda. Then, we have an entire summer of fairs and festivals. That’s, like, 90 minutes every night. So you have to get prepared for that. We’re adding a lot of new set pieces that are coming out with us this summer, too.

C&I: I’ve asked people this before, but if money was no object, what kind of show would you do? The Garth Brooks mega-show?

Young: If we had lots of people and lots of money, if you don’t say you want to do a Garth-type show, you’re probably nuts. I like the Fourth of July. I like seeing stuff explode. So I’d do that. … We were out with Jason Aldean before Miranda. He’s more of a rock ‘n’ roll show. Miranda rocks out, too, but she does some stripped down stuff and ballads. Before him, we were with Rascal Flatts, and they are completely different from both Jason and Miranda. And before them, I was with Alan Jackson, who’s more of a stand-and-deliver guy. He tells a lot of stories, and actually did one of the coolest things I’ve seen. In his show, he started bringing out stools, and he did a mashup of a lot of his hits in chronological order and told stories.

C&I: He has to do that, or his concerts would last all night.

Young: [Laughs.] Yes, when you’re Alan Jackson, you could never do a show where you have all of your hits. … I learn from everybody, though. I watch what everybody does. Flatts had pyro. Jason had light trusses. Everybody does something unique that spotlight who they are on stage.

C&I: When you have some free time, where are some of your favorite Western destinations for travel?

Young: I love Texas, obviously. I lived there. I love the culture, the music – they have their own kind of brand. California, too. Even going back to Buck Owens and Merle and that California sound they had. And you can go from the top to the bottom and see everything from mountains to beaches. I love going out to San Diego – gorgeous weather.

C&I: Are you an active traveler, or do you like to just chill?

Young: I don’t have to have something every minute. I’m not one of those people who plan everything down to the minute. I’m more spur of the moment, because my touring life is so planned out. So, when I’m off, I drive my friends nuts. They’re like, “What time are we meeting?” and I’m like “I don’t know. I’ll see you later.”

C&I: Any favorite road trips from your past worth mentioning?

Young: One of the first big things I did, touring-wise, was travel around to all the radio stations in the country. I mean, from Oregon to the bottom of Florida. And every where we went, we’d stop at a diner. There was this place in Oklahoma that was literally an Airstream that had been welded onto another Airstream. I love stuff like that.

Chris Young will be hosting his annual CMA Fest fan club party on Thursday, May 7, at the Texas Troubadour theater in Nashville. He’ll play Indianapolis’ Klipsch Music Center with Miranda Lambert on June 8, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field with Brad Paisley on June 9. Click here for more show dates.

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